In the weeks leading to the CRTC hearing on broadcasting licences, Canadians were inundated with splashy advertising campaigns claiming that new fees for local signals were either a TV tax or would save local television. With all of the major broadcasters and cable companies appearing before the commission, the fee-for-carriage (or value-for-signal) issue unsurprisingly took centre stage at last week's hearing.
Yet those convinced that the broadcaster plan was limited to a new fee were in for a rude awakening. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that fee-for-carriage is only part of the story, as broadcasters are also seeking to block U.S. signals, leave some Canadian communities without over-the-air television, and delay the transition to digital television transmission until 2013.
The prospect of blocking U.S. television signals will come as a shock to many, but both CTV and Canwest, Canada's two largest private broadcasters, have asked the CRTC to establish a new program deletion policy.